Reanna Hawkins Career Spotlight
Reanna Hawkins is a Cook who works at the Parkland Integrated Health Centre in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan. Below is her experience working as a Cook for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
What are you responsible for as a Cook? Please describe a typical day for yourself.
“I am responsible for preparing food for patients at the hospital and residents at the long-term care facility. The first thing I do as a Cook at the beginning of my shift is take a look at what the menu is for lunch and supper for the day. I also review if there are any patient restrictions in order to meet specific dietary needs and patient preferences. I will then prep for lunch and supper accordingly. Time management when prepping food is very important. I would usually start with what items need to be baked as they take the longest to prep. Then I would move on to finishing the remaining items closer to lunch and supper time. It is a very team-based environment as I work with other Cooks and Food Service Workers who help prep, plate meals, and deliver to patients and residents.”
How is your work-life balance as a Cook in Shellbrook? How does your current experience compare to other jobs you had in the past?
“Overall, my work-life balance is pretty good. I used to cook at a local grocery store in the deli department. It was similar to my current experience at the hospital as both are high paced however working at the hospital is a lot more structured. For example, if we think the hospital will be really busy for lunch and supper, we will prepare and cook extra plates for the additional patients ahead of time. You are also well trained on the processes to prep the food so a typical day has little to no unexpected surprises, which is nice to keep stress levels down. In terms of work-life balance, my shifts are during the day so it is nice to work during normal hours as cooks outside of health-care may work a lot in the evenings. Working in the health centre provides better work hours and less stress which is really nice!”
One key part of cooking is the ability to be creative and innovative with dishes. Are you able to be creative with the dishes that you cook?
“There is a menu that we follow everyday but we can improvise a bit on how we cook the food. For example, we have the flexibility on how we cook certain meats and season vegetables to make them taste even better. If something comes up that we need to change a dish we are able to do that to meet patient needs and preferences.”
Have you always wanted to be a Cook in the health-care sector?
“No I was not always thinking that I wanted to be a cook. I worked many jobs and none of them appealed to me or worked the best for my life. I knew I needed a change so I applied on a Food Service Worker opportunity in 2022 and a few months later I trained to be a Cook in Shellbrook. My manager was supportive of me growing my career as a cook and indicated that there are many jobs available for cooks in health-care. Therefore, I shadowed some of the cooks at the hospital and that helped grow my passion for cooking. One opportunity lead to another!”
Are there opportunities to progress your career as a Cook with the SHA?
“Yes there are opportunities to move up and the SHA supports career development. For example, I am going to obtain my Health Care Cook certificate this fall in Saskatoon and will still work in Shellbrook casually. I am able to take some of the classes virtually which is really nice. After obtaining my certificate, I can then continue to work on obtaining my Red Seal or Journeyperson Certificate, which can open the door for Head Cook opportunities or other management roles in the Nutrition and Food Services department.”
Do you have any advice for students or new graduates looking to pursue a career as a Cook in the health-care sector?
“Do not underestimate what cooking can do for you and for patients. Cooking in health-care can bring you a ton of joy and happiness as you prepare great meals for people who may be going through very difficult time in their lives. In a restaurant environment, you may cook for a large variety of different customers and the food you prep may taste great but it may not be good for someone’s health. In health-care, not only do you cook great tasting food but it also helps improve patients’ health, which is something you don’t typically get to do in a restaurant. For those looking for a stronger purpose in cooking, consider a career in the health-care sector.”
What is the number one thing about being a Cook in the health-care sector?
“The number one thing is a when you get feedback from your patients on how much they enjoy your food and how good it makes them feel. Patients at hospitals may be going through some very difficult times and your food helps to brighten their day and improve their situation. Knowing that I am helping people every day get better not only has an impact on their own lives but their family and friends as well. It really adds a lot of purpose to my cooking and it makes me happy knowing that I am making a difference every day.”